Zazen and the Jhanas

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Christopherxx » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:38 am

Hey gals and guys!

So many of us know that the Zen tradition is named after Dhyana. Which is synonymous with Jhana.

I was having a discussion with a (I believe) a Soto practitioner where she noted that in Zazen practice (An open awareness meditation style where eyes are kept open) that they are able to have what she would consider absorption experiences.

As much of our traditions literature focuses on the breath or kasina practice in order to bring about the nimitta and then enter into Jhana (Both form Jhanas and formless attainments). Is it possible for their practice to have such experiences as defined in our tradition.

Obviously this is a discussion where Dharma Wheel participants *I think I posted there as well* and our own past and present Zen practitioners are encouraged to chime in! :anjali:
Christopherxx
 
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 9:59 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby darvki » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:52 am

Mahayana polemics led to the seeming rejection of jhana, but any time with Zen will reveal an enormous emphasis on ever deepening samadhi that sets the stage for awakening experiences. It would seem that the sectarian differences are merely differences in the use of terms.
darvki
 
Posts: 73
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:20 am

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Nyana » Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:17 am

Christopherxx wrote:Is it possible for their practice to have such experiences as defined in our tradition.

Sure. I remember many years ago Ven. Heng Sure commenting about one monk from the CTTB who could sit in jhāna for 5+ hours at a time. And there's the reports of Ven. Xuyun remaining in samādhi for extended periods, once for a period of 18 days, and twice for periods of 9 days each. See An Inquiry into Master Xuyun's Experiences of Long-dwelling in Samādhi. Granted, these are exceptional cases, but jhāna requires a dedicated, refined level of practice.

Christopherxx wrote:Obviously this is a discussion where Dharma Wheel participants *I think I posted there as well* and our own past and present Zen practitioners are encouraged to chime in!

You may want to check out this thread on Dharma Wheel: Are the jhanas taught in zen/chan?
Nyana
 
Posts: 2227
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Christopherxx » Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:46 am

Nana it's great to hear from you again!
Christopherxx
 
Posts: 106
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 9:59 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Anagarika » Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:18 am

I have had the experience in some settings with Soto Zen where there was something of what I felt to be an aversion to jhana. I did not find in my limited study of Dogen anything resembling dhyana teachings. This is ironic in the sense that 'Zen' derives from 'Chan" which derives from dhyana, but I had a clear sense that Dogen sought to break well free of the traditional samatha-vipassana model and to create or brand his own style of "just sitting" meditation.

Others' mileage may vary, as it is said, and it may be true that there are Soto Zen teachers who embrace jhana type meditation, but to a great degree among Soto practitioners I see a lack of implementation of teaching of jhana, toward a more Dogen-ish approach of silent, sitting illumination.... maybe more like a samatha calming approach with an aversion to the active vipassana step.

I'm being careful not to sound critical, but only to recite my observations.
User avatar
Anagarika
 
Posts: 634
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:25 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Sat Dec 08, 2012 8:38 am

Christopherxx wrote:Hey gals and guys!

So many of us know that the Zen tradition is named after Dhyana. Which is synonymous with Jhana.

I was having a discussion with a (I believe) a Soto practitioner where she noted that in Zazen practice (An open awareness meditation style where eyes are kept open) that they are able to have what she would consider absorption experiences.

As much of our traditions literature focuses on the breath or kasina practice in order to bring about the nimitta and then enter into Jhana (Both form Jhanas and formless attainments). Is it possible for their practice to have such experiences as defined in our tradition.

Obviously this is a discussion where Dharma Wheel participants *I think I posted there as well* and our own past and present Zen practitioners are encouraged to chime in! :anjali:


to my knowledge and experience part of the practice of zazen is deliberately keeping oneself out of jhana and therefore totally different. it can be likened to vipassana though. zazen is seen as a vehicle all in it's own in the soto tradition, the end all be all method. the open awareness itself is said to be nirvana. as opposed to the theravada approach of jhana, wisdom, and morality.

but i'm not positive on that. a GREAT deal of patience is required when reading about or talking about zen meditation. it's all (it almost seems deliberately) shrouded in mystery, there are no step by step instructions (as opposed to our: he enters the first jhana... enters the second jhana... and so on. step by step) it's all extremely vague and varies a huge amount from one teacher to the next, let alone one school to the next (rinzai/soto/etc.). i have dug and dug and dug into this very question over the years directly with teachers and through lots of reading and have yet to come up with an answer i feel is complete. i have never even been able to get what i would call a straight answer out of a zen meditation teacher face to face! they just give vague little hints and tips. like: "eventually the mind shuts off." okay so how does that help me? or i ask: "should i be focusing on my breathing and letting thoughts go?" and the teacher says "no." i say "so what should i do about thoughts?" teacher says "nothing." great, thanks, now i get it :roll: .needless to say i'm a little too practical and too in love with structured approaches to really appreciate and enjoy the vague and mysterious zen. however i still find it deeply alluring and very much am still interested in it even if i did "officially" give up on it entirely, especially once i found out how different the zen idea is from what the buddha taught is the definition of samma samadhi (ie: the buddha said it's jhana, and no zen schools teach jhana, ironic since as you said: zen=chan=dhyana=jhana...). however the two may meet on the idea of vipassana. the oft quoted satipatthana sutta talks about non-jhana anapanasati and goes on to discuss other methods and says that these alone can lead to enlightenment. so perhaps this kind of idea is what is passed on in zen? who knows.

nonetheless i still find myself reading about zen masters and enjoying quotes from tang dynasty teachers and so on. i'm also very intrigued by zazen and silent illumination. however i had literally zero success in five years or so practicing these methods except for a little peace of mind and relaxation/happy thoughts and with jhana meditation i started having great progress and stunning results very quickly and it just keeps getting better. i feel like i'm missing something about zen meditation... it's so unguided, the idea that it can lead anywhere is so foreign to me. as opposed to the very structured theravada approach. even the satipatthana anapanasati is very structured, complete with a section on how to practice insight on your breathing meditation. whereas soto zazen is just sitting. literally just sitting (actually that is the literal definition of the further version of zazen: shikantaza)! it's mind boggling.
alan...
 
Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:37 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:07 pm

Christopherxx wrote:So many of us know that the Zen tradition is named after Dhyana. Which is synonymous with Jhana.


By the time the Chan tradition in China developed the term chan 禪 itself was not necessarily strictly associated with the four dhyānas.


I was having a discussion with a (I believe) a Soto practitioner where she noted that in Zazen practice (An open awareness meditation style where eyes are kept open) that they are able to have what she would consider absorption experiences.


Generally speaking Zen in Japan, be it Soto or Rinzai, does not pay much attention to how the Buddha described the dhyānas in the Āgama literature. As we know the Buddha described them in detail and taught them throughout his teaching career. However in East Asia the Āgama literature was superseded by Mahāyāna works long before the Chan school came to exist. By that time a lot of indigenous schools like Tiantai were existent with their own takes on meditation.
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 87
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:27 pm
Location: Wandering

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:10 pm

darvki wrote:Mahayana polemics led to the seeming rejection of jhana, but any time with Zen will reveal an enormous emphasis on ever deepening samadhi that sets the stage for awakening experiences. It would seem that the sectarian differences are merely differences in the use of terms.


That's not necessarily the case. Early Mahāyāna authors like Nāgārjuna speaks of cultivating dhyāna as a means of facilitating mental stamina for the purposes of realizing emptiness. One main difference lay in that after experiencing the bliss of dhyāna the bodhisattva would hope that all beings could cultivate such experience and be liberated from suffering.
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 87
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:27 pm
Location: Wandering

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:42 pm

Let me just say that Japanese Zen and Chinese Chan, while aware of what dhyāna is, generally believe themselves to possess superior methods. I don't agree with this.

I was actually just recently discussing this with a Chan practitioner here in Taiwan who told me in no uncertain terms that there are "superior methods" when it comes to meditation. I was defending my inclination and dedication to dhyāna practice as Śākyamuni Buddha taught it. They insisted that it was far too gradual a method and that their practice was certainly superior. They insist that their version of Chan practice is not limited to quiet environments, but can be practised anywhere and everywhere, especially while carrying out your daily chores (chopping wood or typing on the computer).

Nevertheless, my issue with such an attitude is that I've never met anyone that demonstrated they possessed superior wisdom or capacities as a result of such a method. It often strikes me as a kind of mindfulness for guarding the mind against harmful thoughts and emotions, though not comparable to the richness and bliss of dhyāna. I think dhyāna is truly necessary as a means of culling kleśas. As the Abhidharma-kośa-bhāsya by Vasubandhu highlights, dhyāna "opposes" afflictive states and thus they are reduced. From a personal point of view I can clearly understand and appreciate this. In my opinion this is far more compelling and effective than gong'an/ko'an contemplation, or sitting waiting for the mind and body to drop away.

I often find Chan unsystematic and baffling. They'll talk about "awakening", but then say one can still fall into the lower realms and regress. In the Mahāyāna context they'll talk about "achieving buddhahood", but then state it is just "temporary" or "a moment" of buddhahood (that doesn't make sense because buddhahood is an irreversible elimination of all afflictions and ignorance). This is in great contrast to other Chinese traditions, particularly in the Tang and earlier which, while indeed Mahāyāna, still provided a systematic and logical general outline for the process of bodhisattvahood and eventual buddhahood without twisting any of the terms.

As I mentioned above the early Mahāyāna taught and practised dhyāna. It is through the experience of dhyāna that the bodhisattva truly cultivates compassion for all beings. One key aspect of this is having personal experience of the ārūpya-dhātu (formless realm). Without a point of reference to understand the subtle suffering of beings in that realm, your compassion for them would only be imagined and estimated based on speculation and the testimony of others. To understand their suffering requires one to actually have experience of that realm, which in turn requires dhyāna (specifically withdrawing from the kāma-dhātu and rūpa-dhātu). This is why merely being mindful or contemplating emptiness on an intellectual level won't cut it.

However, their counter argument for what I am saying here is that such texts as the Mahāprājñāpāramitā Upadeśa (attributed to Nāgārjuna) teach that the bodhisattva realizes all things as empty and thus abides neither in disordered thoughts or meditative absorption. However, they seem to overlook two critical things:

1. The "bodhisattva" in the text is generally assumed to be an advanced practitioner, not an ordinary person.
2. It also mentions that the dhyānas are cultivated before wisdom is attained, whereupon compassion and abilities emerge otherwise unavailable. This essentially means that while a bodhisattva can indeed abide neither in chaotic thoughts nor meditative absorption (transcending both basically), in order to really do that one needs to have mastery of dhyāna.

In my experience with Zen and Chan, the second point seems to be often overlooked. The assumption is that anyone can just jump right into rather advanced practices (anything related to emptiness is actually quite advanced, be it intellectual or yogic).
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 87
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:27 pm
Location: Wandering

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Anagarika » Sat Dec 08, 2012 5:13 pm

:goodpost: , Huseng.

It's my impression that so much of what is practiced in the US these days is far more "Zen," or the American new-age post Beat type stuff that has cemented itself well in the practice of Zen, but, to me, is now Zen, but really not so much Buddhism. I have noted in some Zen sanghas almost a reluctance to acknowledge Gautama Buddha, and a suggestion that the Agamas/Nikayas are to be forgotten or ignored. I feel that Zen in the west has evolved, and in doing so, moved further away from the original path and onto a path almost entirely of its own design. The evolution does seem to have root in not early Mahayana, but in later Mahayana, where there seems almost a perjorative attitude taken toward the early teachings of Buddha. What seems to have emerged is a grand tradition of storytelling, with later sutras designed to characterize the Buddha as a god, a mythical deity, a supernatural being. I have the sense that some of the Zen patriarchs were really carving out for themselves new philosophical territories at the expense of what they themselves were taught when they were young monks. Dogen may be just one example of this phenomenon.

I note that a few years ago, after sitting sesshin for a few days, all of us sitting, and sitting and sitting, with no instruction and no perspective on the sitting, one of the priests at the zendo, in a private moment, cut loose with " all this sitting is just bulls**t!" I think what he was trying to express was that in Zen, the marathon sessions of silent sitting were not what Buddha taught, and seemed not to be doing much for anyone other than seeing whose knees and backs could withstand the torture the longest.

There is such a beauty and strength to Mahayana practice. The bodhisattva ideal is absolutely the proper template for practice in the modern world, and it's my feeling that Gautama himself is still such a strong example of that ideal. Early Mahayana took the traditional practices and in so many ways expanded and energized the teachings, in a very authentic way. Yet, modern Zen may need to be careful that in throwing out the bathwater (the Agamas) it doesn't toss out the baby (Shakyamuni Buddha) as well.
User avatar
Anagarika
 
Posts: 634
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:25 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby daverupa » Sat Dec 08, 2012 5:25 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:what is practiced in the US these days... the American new-age post Beat type stuff that has cemented itself well in the practice of Zen... but really not so much Buddhism.


This has tended to be my experience with Zen in the States, as well. It's as if buddha-nature is just supposed to overwhelm the mind when it's quiet enough; incomplete right effort, in any event, but I'm probably under-educated.

BuddhaSoup wrote:The bodhisattva ideal is absolutely the proper template for practice in the modern world, and it's my feeling that Gautama himself is still such a strong example of that ideal.


I think the gradual training is a far superior template - bodhisattva training isn't buddhavacana when looking at the Nikaya strata, but to each their own.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4243
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Anagarika » Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:07 pm

daverupa wrote:I think the gradual training is a far superior template - bodhisattva training isn't buddhavacana when looking at the Nikaya strata, but to each their own.

:heart:


Daverupa, thanks for your comment. I kinda threw in my last sentence the idea that the Bodhisattva path is 'the" path, when I should have said 'a" path. I have understood that the bodhisattva does appear in the Nikayas, but my question is when you speak of the gradual training, what do you mean? I ask this out of curiosity, as I'd like to get your sense of what that gradual training entails.

w/Metta
User avatar
Anagarika
 
Posts: 634
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:25 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby daverupa » Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:21 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:I have understood that the bodhisattva does appear in the Nikayas, but my question is when you speak of the gradual training, what do you mean? I ask this out of curiosity, as I'd like to get your sense of what that gradual training entails.


Well, the bodhisatta in the Nikayas tends to be the Samana Gotama; there are some discourses about his training during this period, but it isn't 'bodhisattva-training' such as there is in Mahayana.

Training is described in a graduated way, e.g. MN 107, MN 125, et al.

MN 70 wrote:"Monks, I do not say that the attainment of gnosis is all at once. Rather, the attainment of gnosis is after gradual training, gradual action, gradual practice.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4243
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Anagarika » Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:29 pm

Thanks, Daverupa, for these excellent citations. I had not been exposed to these suttas before, and look forward to reading them.

Metta
User avatar
Anagarika
 
Posts: 634
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:25 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:46 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:It's my impression that so much of what is practiced in the US these days is far more "Zen," or the American new-age post Beat type stuff that has cemented itself well in the practice of Zen, but, to me, is now Zen, but really not so much Buddhism.


I've not had any experience with American Zen. My experience has been in Japan and Taiwan. Of course I've read and heard about American Zen.

Regardless, Japanese Zen, like much of the rest of Buddhism there, is a fossil of what it used to be. Japanese Buddhism is largely a hereditary priesthood that is routinely called a "funeral religion" (that means you only call a priest when somebody has died). Buddhism is irrelevant to most of Japanese society. In my experience I also found that a number of Soto Zen priests deny rebirth and karma. Some American Zen figures likewise get their ideas from native Japanese priests who have rejected some of the core teachings of the Buddha. This isn't universal, but these were senior members of the clergy.

In modern Chinese Buddhism there is no such revisionism. However, there are still relatively recent baffling ideas about how meditation relates to liberation. They might teach the bodhisattva bhūmis taking immeasurable kalpas to pass through, but then talk about various stages of meditation being equivalent to higher bhūmis though the practitioner is still an ordinary being. They don't really mean the practitioner is at that stage, but nevertheless they say it.

Part of the problem perhaps lay in the fact that criticism is disdained and thus critical discussions about doctrine don't seem to happen. The culture seems to be one where people are hesitant to stand up and tell someone outright that they're wrong and talking nonsense (that would be seen as inappropriate, uncouth and a lack of manners). In the context of a lineage especially nobody would challenge their superiors and hence illogical ideas are propagated rather than challenged and revised. In some cases immoral ideas (for instance an eminent teacher supporting the death penalty) are left unchallenged, too.



The evolution does seem to have root in not early Mahayana, but in later Mahayana, where there seems almost a perjorative attitude taken toward the early teachings of Buddha.


We have to be careful in our understanding of the Mahāyāna. Later Mahāyāna in India was, I think, not as antagonistic towards the Śrāvakayāna teachings as in East Asia. In East Asia come the fifth or sixth century there were almost no proponents of Āgama teachings. However, that didn't stop a lot of authors from crafting imaginary "Hīnayāna" strawmen. In that context it was easy to dismiss the Āgama teachings.


What seems to have emerged is a grand tradition of storytelling, with later sutras designed to characterize the Buddha as a god, a mythical deity, a supernatural being.


You should bear in mind that the Mahāsāṃghika school, long before any formal Mahāyāna appeared, had thought of the Buddha as a transcendental force (lokottara) rather than as a flesh and blood sage.

One good work which details this is The Concept of the Buddha by Venerable Guang Xing.

http://books.google.com.tw/books?id=DTWZLMGFFgkC

Note the following:

    The Mahāsāṃghikas’ religious philosophy was based more on faith than on reason, and accepted whatever was said by the Buddha or, more precisely, whatever was taught in the Nikāyas and the Āgamas. As a result, they developed the concept of a transcendental (lokottara) Buddha based on the superhuman qualities of the Buddha, as discussed in Chapter 1 above. Two aspects of the Mahāsāṃghikas’ concept of the Buddha can be identified: the true Buddha who is omniscient and omnipotent, and the manifested forms through which he liberates sentient beings with skilful means. Shakyamuni was considered but one of these forms. The true Buddha supports the manifested forms that can appear in the worlds of the ten directions. In Mahayana Buddhism, the former aspect – the true Buddha – was developed and divided into the concept of the dharmakāya and the concept of the sambhogakāya; the latter aspect – the manifested forms – was developed into the concept of nirmaṇakāya. Thus, the Mahāsāṃghikas are the originators of the idea of the nirmaṇakāya, and the manifested forms can have many embodiments. Furthermore, they also introduced the theory of numerous Buddhas existing in other worlds. (p53)

The only problem with this quote is saying they believed in any kind of "omnipotence". I don't believe this was the case.

In any case, the Mahāyāna emerges from this branch of early Buddhism and not the Sthaviravāda, who had an alternative perspective:

    The concept of the Buddha was significantly advanced at the time of the early Indian Buddhist schools, especially the Sarvāstivāda and the Mahāsāṃghika. The Sarvāstivādins were more empirical in their approach. They summarized and synthesized the attributes and qualities of the Buddha as described in the early sutras before formulating, for the first time, the two-body theory: that of the rupakāya and the dharmakāya. The rupakāya, according to the Sarvāstivādins, although impure, is endowed with the thirty-two major and eighty minor marks as well as a one-fathom halo. The dharmakāya is endowed with the eighteen exclusive attributes: the ten powers, the four kinds of intrepidity, the three foundations of mindfulness and great compassion. None of the constituents of either the rupakāya or the dharmakāya are innovative; rather, they consist of the qualities of the Buddha which were already present in early Buddhism. Some of them, such as the ten powers and the thirty-two major marks were simply taken from the Nikāyas and the Āgamas with further explanations. Other qualities, for instance the eighty minor marks and the one-fathom halo, were taken after careful synthesis. (p75)
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 87
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:27 pm
Location: Wandering

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Sun Dec 09, 2012 8:13 am

Huseng wrote:
I often find Chan unsystematic and baffling.



fully agree! so much amazing potential and very real practical ideas that seem to function beautifully, but alas, spun in a web of conflicting ideas or at best, ideas that are not systematized in any consistent manner, leaving the practitioner out in the cold so to speak. as always, the key is to find a good teacher, but there in lies the real challenge: who is a good teacher?

back to the topic at hand, i too have heard zen and chan practitioners claiming their methods to be superior. in particular silent illumination. i in some way find this plausible. if one could actualize all reality at one moment and see through delusion by using the singular method of looking DIRECTLY at reality it seems one could make nearly instant progress. but then, as mentioned above, without a good teacher where does one find a foothold on this mountain of a task? there's no steps to be found, no rungs on the ladder, it's just a sheer cliff face. limitless potential at the summit, but without some seriously skilled instruction it's VERY difficult. whereas jhana can be learned from a book with some dedication, effort and comparison to the suttas, because it was designed from the ground up to be step by step and an easily transmitted skill.
alan...
 
Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:37 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby alan... » Sun Dec 09, 2012 8:30 am

BuddhaSoup wrote::goodpost: , Huseng.

It's my impression that so much of what is practiced in the US these days is far more "Zen," or the American new-age post Beat type stuff that has cemented itself well in the practice of Zen, but, to me, is now Zen, but really not so much Buddhism. I have noted in some Zen sanghas almost a reluctance to acknowledge Gautama Buddha, and a suggestion that the Agamas/Nikayas are to be forgotten or ignored. I feel that Zen in the west has evolved, and in doing so, moved further away from the original path and onto a path almost entirely of its own design. The evolution does seem to have root in not early Mahayana, but in later Mahayana, where there seems almost a perjorative attitude taken toward the early teachings of Buddha. What seems to have emerged is a grand tradition of storytelling, with later sutras designed to characterize the Buddha as a god, a mythical deity, a supernatural being. I have the sense that some of the Zen patriarchs were really carving out for themselves new philosophical territories at the expense of what they themselves were taught when they were young monks. Dogen may be just one example of this phenomenon.

I note that a few years ago, after sitting sesshin for a few days, all of us sitting, and sitting and sitting, with no instruction and no perspective on the sitting, one of the priests at the zendo, in a private moment, cut loose with " all this sitting is just bulls**t!" I think what he was trying to express was that in Zen, the marathon sessions of silent sitting were not what Buddha taught, and seemed not to be doing much for anyone other than seeing whose knees and backs could withstand the torture the longest.

There is such a beauty and strength to Mahayana practice. The bodhisattva ideal is absolutely the proper template for practice in the modern world, and it's my feeling that Gautama himself is still such a strong example of that ideal. Early Mahayana took the traditional practices and in so many ways expanded and energized the teachings, in a very authentic way. Yet, modern Zen may need to be careful that in throwing out the bathwater (the Agamas) it doesn't toss out the baby (Shakyamuni Buddha) as well.


i've heard many people say on multiple occasions that zen can and does exist independently of buddhism! how absurd! it has it's existence from day one inside buddhism. without buddhism there never would have been any zen. so yes you're not alone in noticing this odd trend of ignoring everything and making zen something new and different.

teachers saying "all this sitting is just bullsh**t!" is kind of odd. however the buddha did teach to sit in meditation, likely in marathons. however he taught jhana. one who learns jhana is in limitless bliss for hours at a time. sitting zazen is not jhana and so unless one has actualized nirvana with this method one will probably not be ready to enjoy extremely long stretches of sitting in this fashion. in my experience it was as you said, painful, torturous, some moments of clarity, but mostly just painfully looking at the floor for an hour. whereas in jhana you close your eyes and enter the amazingly pleasant jhana spheres one by one, your body doesn't even exist let alone bother you. this is probably the difference. i never understood the monks looking blissed out at the zendo, gently swaying unconsciously while sitting with perfect composure. perhaps they had penetrated the heart of this method? once one has entered ultimate reality i imagine zazen feels as good or maybe even better than jhana for hours at a time!

zazen being "goalless" means you set a timer and try to sit it out without looking at the clock (until one reaches ultimate reality obviously, then it's a different story!). jhana is very goal oriented, so you sit with a clear plan in mind, for example: practice anapanasati up to access concentration, enter the first jhana, bliss out for as long as you please, then come out and contemplate the arising of thoughts, the body, the mind, etc. (or whatever you want, there are many methods). timers serve no purpose once you learn how to enter jhana anymore than they do once you learn how to paint a picture: you paint it until you are done with it or satisfied with your progress as you have a clear idea of what you are going to do. but i imagine timers are extremely important for zazen practitioners until they learn to enter ultimate reality. i never got this far unfortunately, and i always hated the darn clock! the bell was release from zazen, the achievement of a goal instead of trying to reach a goal in the meditation itself, i was just proud when i waited it out without thinking about it or checking the time. now i bliss out, sometimes i have no idea how long i sit, my wife has had to come get me before as i pay no attention to how long it has been. then i lie back and contemplate reality with my jhana focused mind.

again i feel that the zen methods have total potential and are very important to the tradition, but they're easy to get frustrated with as the only reward is the end goal which is as far away as it is in theravada but in theravada you are in bliss until you get there. even if you never get there you enjoy the ride. i felt like i wasted years practicing zazen because i had no fruit for all of my work. now even if i gain no new insights or anything even for a month at a time i still crave the joy of jhana meditation (and no i'm not a jhana junkie, i still contemplate reality and my main practice is satipatthana).
alan...
 
Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:37 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Dec 09, 2012 12:23 pm

alan... wrote:sitting zazen is not jhana and so unless one has actualized nirvana with this method one will probably not be ready to enjoy extremely long stretches of sitting in this fashion. in my experience it was as you said, painful, torturous, some moments of clarity, but mostly just painfully looking at the floor for an hour. whereas in jhana you close your eyes


I was waiting for someone to mention the eyes. It does make a difference in the quality of concentration. Additionally, zazen and silent illumination can be extremely pleasant experiences if one has good concentration and the ability to relax and surrender. Dogen called zazen "peacfulness and blessedness itself" and my experience with chan methods bears this out.

Chan and zen methods are misunderstood because most of those willing to talk about them lack sufficient experience of them. I would suppose this is true of jhana methods too.
"When you meditate, don't send your mind outside. Don't fasten onto any knowledge at all. Whatever knowledge you've gained from books or teachers, don't bring it in to complicate things. Cut away all preoccupations, and then as you meditate let all your knowledge come from what's going on in the mind. When the mind is quiet, you'll know it for yourself. But you have to keep meditating a lot. When the time comes for things to develop, they'll develop on their own. Whatever you know, have it come from your own mind.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
User avatar
m0rl0ck
 
Posts: 1031
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2009 10:51 am

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby Anagarika » Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:14 pm

alan... wrote:i've heard many people say on multiple occasions that zen can and does exist independently of buddhism! how absurd! it has it's existence from day one inside buddhism. without buddhism there never would have been any zen. so yes you're not alone in noticing this odd trend of ignoring everything and making zen something new and different.

teachers saying "all this sitting is just bullsh**t!" is kind of odd. however the buddha did teach to sit in meditation, likely in marathons. however he taught jhana. one who learns jhana is in limitless bliss for hours at a time. sitting zazen is not jhana and so unless one has actualized nirvana with this method one will probably not be ready to enjoy extremely long stretches of sitting in this fashion. in my experience it was as you said, painful, torturous, some moments of clarity, but mostly just painfully looking at the floor for an hour. whereas in jhana you close your eyes and enter the amazingly pleasant jhana spheres one by one, your body doesn't even exist let alone bother you. this is probably the difference. i never understood the monks looking blissed out at the zendo, gently swaying unconsciously while sitting with perfect composure. perhaps they had penetrated the heart of this method? once one has entered ultimate reality i imagine zazen feels as good or maybe even better than jhana for hours at a time!

zazen being "goalless" means you set a timer and try to sit it out without looking at the clock (until one reaches ultimate reality obviously, then it's a different story!). jhana is very goal oriented, so you sit with a clear plan in mind, for example: practice anapanasati up to access concentration, enter the first jhana, bliss out for as long as you please, then come out and contemplate the arising of thoughts, the body, the mind, etc. (or whatever you want, there are many methods). timers serve no purpose once you learn how to enter jhana anymore than they do once you learn how to paint a picture: you paint it until you are done with it or satisfied with your progress as you have a clear idea of what you are going to do. but i imagine timers are extremely important for zazen practitioners until they learn to enter ultimate reality. i never got this far unfortunately, and i always hated the darn clock! the bell was release from zazen, the achievement of a goal instead of trying to reach a goal in the meditation itself, i was just proud when i waited it out without thinking about it or checking the time. now i bliss out, sometimes i have no idea how long i sit, my wife has had to come get me before as i pay no attention to how long it has been. then i lie back and contemplate reality with my jhana focused mind.

again i feel that the zen methods have total potential and are very important to the tradition, but they're easy to get frustrated with as the only reward is the end goal which is as far away as it is in theravada but in theravada you are in bliss until you get there. even if you never get there you enjoy the ride. i felt like i wasted years practicing zazen because i had no fruit for all of my work. now even if i gain no new insights or anything even for a month at a time i still crave the joy of jhana meditation (and no i'm not a jhana junkie, i still contemplate reality and my main practice is satipatthana).

:goodpost:
User avatar
Anagarika
 
Posts: 634
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:25 pm

Re: Zazen and the Jhanas

Postby convivium » Sun Dec 09, 2012 6:53 pm

it seems important to distinguish between dogen zen and soto zen in general. i prefer the former, while i don't resonate with a lot of the teachings that fall under the wider umbrella of 'soto'. in the suzuki roshi lineage, they are open to satipatthana practice. however, the jhanas are not taught. certain teachers within the lineage will sympathize with jhana practice while others won't. however, if you 'do' jhana without making distinctions or maps (in general) and just by way of anapanasati (in it's minimalist forms) then it's essentially zazen. that's what i gathered from my three months at tassajara.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
User avatar
convivium
 
Posts: 574
Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 7:13 am

Next

Return to Samatha Meditation and Jhana

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 3 guests